Australian athletes have been hit hard by the pandemic, with an Australian Sporting Foundation survey showing about 43 per cent who responded were earning below the poverty line in 2020.
Fifty per cent of women who responded to the ASF survey were earning less than $23,000 from sport and work last year.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Australian Athletes survey received 521 responses late last year, before releasing its report on Tuesday. More than 75 per cent of respondents were national and international competitors.
Of those responses, 43.25 per cent reported their overall annual income was less than $23,000 last year.
In 2020 the poverty line was $457 per week for a single adult in Australia, which equates to more than $23,000 annually.
ASF chief executive officer Patrick Walker said the survey highlighted, with few exceptions, the effect the pandemic had on athletes.
"Australia is and always has been a proud sporting nation. The love of the game runs in our DNA and has driven us to consistently excel on the world's stage," he said.
"However ... our elite athletes, the best and the brightest in sport, the ones we call legends, face a precarious future due to underfunding and limited financial security which has been worsened by COVID-19 with almost 20 per cent of our international athletes considering retirement if COVID-19 disruption continues."
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Survey responses were received from 72 different sports, outside of the major professional codes such as NRL, Super Rugby, AFL, A-League/W-League.
The survey showed the gender pay gap in respondents resembled other sectors in Australia, with a higher proportion of female athletes in the lowest income band and a lower portion in the highest income bands.
Almost 61 per cent of athletes reported financial loses from either sponsorships, prize money, grant funding, fundraising or contracts. The average amount lost from sport income was $13,500. However, for those earning less than $23,000 a year, reported losses from sport averaged more than half their annual income at $14,800 in losses.
More than 60 per cent of respondents said paid employment outside of sport was their primary form of income, but the survey found athletes were also forced to rely on their families for financial support.
Despite this, more than 71 per cent of respondents received no government support such as JobSeeker or JobKeeper.
Unsurprisingly the pandemic affected more than athletes' wallets, as 73 per cent reported it had a negative impact on their physical health and 86 per cent reported worse mental health.
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